Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, June 29, 2009

Miss Priss

Through most of May and much of June, we had some crazy thunderstorms roll through daily. The typical CO thunderstorm hits about 4 pm, drops a little bit of rain here or there - frequently you can look around and see 3 or more 'cells' of rain as the clouds roll on eastward.

These were crazy storms - full on pouring rain and generally rained solid for as far as you could see. We had a few weeks there where there were tornado warnings almost every day - many people I knew had some sort of sighting story (not myself though).

One day we were out in the pasture working on the horse panels, and it was just beginning to rain. Dave packed up and was driving the tracker back to the house. I had a few more things to do -- and the hail hit with a vengeance.

Me and the horses all ran for the shelter, where upon they did this histerical little dance of "OHH! It's very NOISY in here, we must leave!" "But OH! It's hailing out here!" Most of them had come to their senses quickly. But not miss Shoshoni. Not the Princess. I think she got all upset because I had the camera in my hand and had raised it above my head to try and get a shot of all the horses.

Little did I know it was on video mode -- thus the first gut wrenching flinch in the footage. The second flinch was purely because she was being her flighty self and I didn't want to get smashed against the wall of the shelter.

( )


Friday, June 26, 2009


When we planned out this year's practices for the equestrians, there were many contingencies we had to account for. And the schedule that we ended up with, to some respect and with the benefit of hindsight... now makes me wonder just what we were thinking!

Working with the guild head from last year, we had some ambitious plans. We wanted to host a collegium - a much more detailed practice that would encompass two full days of mounted and unmounted sessions. We had an interesting variety of topics and instructors lined up.

And then... we tried to select a weekend we could conduct it. Ohh boy. Long story short, the ONLY weekend all year long that our facilities were available for a whole weekend, and that the instructors were available, was early April. So we jumped on it, thinking how nice it would be to cover some skills in depth and then have the rest of the year to build upon what we learned.

The SCA Corporate office carries insurance for all local branches. When someone plans an event, they must notify the corporate office and get their event added to the insurance policy. This applies to practices as well - except that there is an interesting loophole in that you can name any number of practice dates during the year and have those listed on the same insurance rider / same insurance fee.

Any dates at all - except for consecutive dates. I guess if you want to practice two days in a row, they insist on thinking of that as an event, which means those two days require their own insurance certificate and fee.

This was, unfortunately, a rule we didn't understand until just before submitting our list of practice dates. This meant we had to decide whether to scrap collegium, turn it into a one-day thing, or cough up the extra $100 for that one event. We decided to cough up the cash.

And then... the crazy weather of 2009 hit us and nearly every weekend activity was cancelled from mid March into May. Yeowza. There is no rain date provision in the insurance policies - so now we were out the $100 without any practice fees to offset it. :-(

So, as an alternative, we decided to select a regular practice date, extend it to be one full day, and attempt to cover half of the topics originally planned. We picked last weekend to do this -- and it was a tremendous success!

We had 11 riders and 10 horses arrive before 9, tack up, warm up, and we were ready to start our initial session shortly after 10. We did a lot of brand new activities.

We tried our hands at some Roman Drills - drill work that the Roman cavalry used to train their mounted warriors. It sure is a whole new riding experience when you have to not only complete your maneuvers but stay synchronized with 7 other riders at the same time. That, combined with some dedicated horsemanship work (on leg yields specifically) meant that I worked harder on my riding than I've had to for a long time.

We also set up a spear target -- a foam sheet fronting some hay bales leaning on the fence. Jordan was such a goof head. On our first pass it was clear he was nervous about the strange looking target. So I abandoned our 'run' and just turned him back to approach it and let him sniff it. Sniff he did - the classic "I'm very afraid of that thing" stance, with his nose poking as far out from his body as he could get. Then... he takes a big mouthful of hay and pulled the target over. Later, Ginger had a lesson of 4 really young kids scheduled during our lunch break. We'd just pulled most of our equipment to the center of the arena so she had room to work around it. Except that the bales of hay proved to be the class's destruction as the horses only wanted to stand around and eat it! We jumped up and carried it out for her.

Over lunch we gathered for a discussion about Mounted Crest Combat and Jousting, and their requirements for equipment and armoring. Frankly, I was worried that we'd discussed this so many times it was going to be a dud discussion. Much to the contrary, it was a lively discussion and we had samples of some helms, shields and lances for show and tell. So it ended up being very useful.

After lunch we set up our tilt (the barrier between jousters), and a new piece of equipment that Garin and I had constructed the week before: a double quintain.

This double-targeted quintain allows riders to approach from either direction, each aiming for their own target. First one to the middle of the run, AND accurate enough to hit the target, 'wins'. As no one's lance crosses over the tilt, we find this to be a really good stepping stone on the way to actual jousting. (For which we aren't authorized to attempt yet)

Jordan and me and our SCA approved joust lance comprised of a 28" table leg, then 5' cardboard tube, then 2' of light saber. Heh. The end piece really doesn't glow, but sure looks like it in this photo. It's a section of pool noodle - light enough to mimic the desired styrofoam, but flexible so that it doesn't shatter anytime you touch anything with it. I ended up taking only a couple of runs using this lance -- the tip was so flexible it bounced as we ran long, and hitting the target it just collapsed in half. We all were laughing so hard I couldn't keep riding with it.

In all, much merriment was had. So many new things were going on we never had a chance to get terribly competitive, but that really made for much of the success of the day I thought. As you can see from the pictures, it was quite cloudy that day - but it kept the temperatures down and didn't start to rain until just as folks were leaving, so we had no complaints about the weather!

As it was, we had scheduled to ride as late as 5:30, but by 4:00 we were all pooped! Two long riding sessions in one day was pretty much too much - we shuddered to think about trying to get up and do this again a second day in a row. So in the end, it was probably a good thing that our original plans had been cancelled as we probably would not have enjoyed trying to go as long and as hard as we thought we could.

But we do look forward to playing with that double quintain more.


Surgery update - Day... 30 something

Lots of folks have been asking how Dave is. I guess that must be good news - he's recovering well enough that we are no longer focusing on the recovery. He's getting around very well, and more or less isn't encumbered by his incision any more. He's doing PT twice a week and exercises the rest of the week, and the therapist says she's pleased with his progress. I think in the next week or so we return to talk to the surgeon. Sometime. I don't really recall.

He still has a lot of painful days, but no pain no gain, right? His PT is getting more aggressive, so the added pain is somewhat expected. On his best days since the surgery, he's felt better than pre-operation. It may take awhile for that to become the standard, but it seems reasonable to count on that eventually.

We are planning on taking a road trip to San Fran in the middle of July (yeah baby! sooooo looking forward to this!) and so now the only worry is whether he'll be in shape to spend prolonged time in the car.

That reminds me, we also would like to get to a SCA Event up in Wyoming over the 4th of July. The kennel is shaping up to be busy enough we're wondering how the heck to get away. But someone suggested that we had to take the trip to WY as a practice for the CA trip. Sounds good to me: Dave's recovery depends on us heading up to GLORY. :-)


Monday, June 15, 2009

Irritating irrigating

GAH! It's June and we're scrambling/begging/borrowing anything we can to obtain some irrigation water since the days are getting hotter, the skys are nothing but deep blue, and the fields are starting to bake. Except that... they aren't.

Much to the contrary, this year it has been raining like mad for weeks, nay months, on end. We had very little snow early in the year. So much so we were very concerned about our pastures and thus made the mental note that this year we really had to get proactive about irrigating.

But then we started scheduling equestrian gatherings late March, and it started snowing, or raining, EVERY WEEKEND. And its still doing it. This past few weeks its gotten out of hand in that the Denver / Front Range has had like 10 tornado sightings with the daily afternoon thunderstorms. Boy, last night we had the lightning and thunder storm to beat all others. At 2 am of course.

So we can't complain about things drying up, we're pretty well soggy wet, brilliantly green, and madly overgrown since our tractor broke and we've been unable to mow. The dogs are hysterical -- we're talking large dogs who disappear into the grass in the dog yards. They are having so much fun bounding through the grass.

Never the less, irrigation is something one NEVER turns away so we're still scrambling. Our neighbor has always been our connection to the water. When we bought the ranch we purchased 2 shares of "New Ish" ditch water. We were warned they weren't terribly valuable, but what the heck, we thought, some water is better than none. Only - the Ish Reservoir hasn't filled up enough in the past few years for the New Ish ditch to flow at all, so in fact we've had none.

The neighbor has typically been able to rent or obtain water from other places, and has always been so good as to obtain some for us as well. Last year he was unable to get any - we were both essentially entirely dry last year.

It really doesn't feel great always being so dependent upon him, and this spring we determined we just had to obtain better water rights for ourselves. Thus started a rather convoluted and long series of calls to find out about this water business.

It started off, actually, because a property behind us was for sale and the sign advertised water rights as well. I called to see if they might be willing to sell the water separately from the land. I found out that that property had not only shares of Supply Ditch, but also CBT (Colorado Big-Thompson) The realtor didn't know much about it, except she said CBT units are typically really sought after because they are never locked to a piece of land, where as other ditches such as Supply Ditch may be locked to the land and can't be sold separately.

So we started looking into buying some CBT units. Found out that indeed CBT units are unrestricted by your property address, but that there are restrictions on how much any one entity can purchase --- basically you have to establish that you have land that you will actually be irrigating with the water. They cracked down on this recently as people started speculating in buying and selling these units. So we needed to get a Field Exam performed before we would be approved. We got on the list back in early May, and writing this now I'm recalling that we never heard back from them. I shot off an email this morning and just heard back that indeed, they still haven't gotten to us but we are still on the list. (Low and behold, I started writing this entry last Friday, and guess who called me this morning, Monday? The inspector!) (** see below for an update)

The Colorado Big Thompson project was a massive water project that pumps water up over the continental divide and dumps it into the Big Thompson river that flows through Estes Park and down to Loveland. It goes through several hydro electric plants on the way. CBT units are very valuable because they produce water every year - even when the other sources are meager or dried up. I priced them and found that a unit is going for about $8K.

Got that far, and then asked - but if we own CBT units, how do they get delivered to us? That person explained that we had to designate a ditch company who would be the carrier. So I called our ditch company to just confirm they could be our carrier for CBT units. Oh.... not necessarily. *crud*

We own shares of the New Ish ditch, which flows from the Ish Reservoir not far from our house. It was only this year that I found out that the New Ish, and Old Ish ditches are physically different ditches. We had previously thought same ditch, but the Old Ish shares just had seniority. It's a fact that the Old Ish shares represent the bottom X feet of the reservoir, and the New Ish shares represent everything above that. So obviously, in dry years, New Ish shares have nothing to divy up amongst themselves.

But they actually are separate ditches, run by different ditch companies. Oh joy. The woman warned me that if we got our CBT units into the Ish Reservoir, if there wasn't enough water in the res, then we might never be able to get that water out of there. Obviously this isn't a risk we're willing to take. She suggested we should be able to talk to Old Ish and make a deal with them to be our carrier for our CBT units only.

But recall Old Ish is a different ditch company entirely. They didn't seem too keen to help me out... AND then he told me the Old Ish ditches couldn't even deliver water to my address. I had to take his word on that - I have no clue where these things go! He did say that there was this 'bypass' ditch that could put water into the New Ish ditch directly, without going through Ish Reservoir, but that to his knowledge that hadn't been used for years. I asked if we could ask that it be used for us, and he said that wouldn't help - because the shrinkage would be so great it is possible that our entire allotment of water would just be absorbed by the (dirt) ditch since it was so dry.

Instead, he recommended we look into buying shares of the Supply Ditch. We do know that Supply water can get to us, as that is the water our neighbor frequently does get. But we'd heard that Supply is sometimes locked to the land, so how can you EVER purchase it? I started calling around to try and figure out who to talk to. Unfortunately I had to wander my way through 3 different ditch companies with "Supply" in their name before I'd found the right one. Because there really isn't any information about these companies out there on the web - they are entirely archaic and the concept of having a web page with which to communicate to their shareholders is a completely novel idea.

This gentleman knew our neighbor. He was quite helpful, and said that since there has been a history of using Supply water on our property we could probably purchase shares. AND, he being the superintendent of that ditch, he also acted as a broker and could put us in touch with someone interested in selling. SCORE!

1/2 share of Supply ditch is running... $8K. Odd that that is exactly the rate for 1 CTB unit, but I guess that's the going rate for water. However, he pointed out, the Supply Ditch does not run ALL the way to our property, we will also have to purchase rights in another ditch, the Howard Lateral. *groan* But our neighbor has agreed he could sell us one, or part of one of his shares.

So - I feel like we've made a lot of progress and have hopes of obtaining some real, valuable, water shares that not only typcially deliver water (except for the most extreme drought years,) but also can deliver CBT units to us were we to purchase or rent CBT water in the future.

No wonder we've been relying upon the neighbor all this time. I'm sure anytime we've tried to have these conversations in the past we just got avalanched under the red tape and decided it was too daunting to tackle.

Meanwhile, the water is in fact running this week, in addition to the near daily thunderstorm deluges we're getting. Shore is lush out there.

** UPDATE 3:30 PM: the CBT folks called me to say our Field Exam was completed today. The good news is that we do qualify to purchase CBT water. The absurd part is that we're only qualified to purchase 22 Acre Feet of water, which conveniently translates to 22 Units of CBT. (1 Acre-Foot of water is the amount of water to cover 1 acre, 1 foot deep) Given that each unit is $8K, um... yeah. I don't think we are in danger of desiring more than we're allotted!



Monday, June 01, 2009

Surgery update - Day #5

So the facebook updates for the first few days were all that I could keep up with, then we went totally dark over the weekend as I pretty much just shunned our electronic lives. Not a bad thing every once in awhile. But, am back to the real world today and it feels like time where an actual update, with actual information in it, is due.

Dave had surgery - a diskectomy to remove the herniated portions of his L5-S1 disk - last Wednesday morning. He was out of surgery by 9:30, in recovery by 10:30 or so in a very nice, private, corner room on the fourth floor.

He arrived in his room complaining of needing to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, his bladder sphincter, it appears, was still affected by the anesthesia and wasn't cooperating. This caused him not only a great deal of discomfort for nearly a day, but also contributed to his elevated BP on top of everything else. All this really didn't even give him a chance to start recovering from the surgery, so it was pretty clear early on we were spending the night at the hospital. They had taken him off of his BP medication for the surgery. By that evening the BP had fallen, but not far enough for the nurse's satisfaction, so she put him back on his meds.

His room came equipped with the tiniest little fold out guest bed you've ever seen - a wide chair, really. The mattress was only about 24 inches wide! LOL. It's cuteness didn't outweigh it's uncomfortableness, however. Not that either of us had a lot of opportunity to actually sleep anyways.

Thursday morning the surgeon popped his head in to check on Dave - at 6:30 am no less. WTH? So - we were up and at'em bright and early. Dave was clearly doing much better though, so was released - pending a visit from the Physical and Occupational Therapists. The nurse was all about making us feel comfortable -- "No rush to get out of here, do you want to stay for lunch?" Well, no, not really.

You think, sitting in the hospital with nothing to do for hours on end, that you have a lot of time on your hands. But then just try and put in a movie to watch. OMG - the LONGEST movies we have ever sat through with all the interruptions! We only finished one the previous night, and as we were up at that unreasonably early hour Thursday with - again nothing to DO for hours - we put in the second one.

I'd rented 21 and BOLT, movies we'd never gotten around to seeing. Bolt seemed like a great idea - cute doggie, funny movie, right? Yeah. Also about a devoted little girl who gets separated from her beloved dog. Ouch. In hind sight we probably could have made a better choice. Oh well, at least we had all those interruptions to keep us from getting too carried away with the emotions. ;-)

The PT and OT came mid morning, had him out for his first hallway excursions. He was walking quite well. Learned how to do stairs, the log roll, get into and out of chairs by leaning on their arms. Huum, we have no chairs with sturdy arms. A trip to the thrift store that afternoon fixed that. It was the OT who described to us the 3 day rule - that the first three days after surgery are the worst. I found myself clinging to that principle the next 2.5 days.

And there it was - we went home. The trip took its toll, but we got him set up in the recliner with end tables on both sides, his reading material, crossword puzzles, a huge sippy cup of juice, his phone, his phone charger, his iTouch, and all of the remotes within reach. As he started to criticize not just what I was doing, but also our property manager - whom we could see walking back and forth across the driveway apparently working on the wrong project - I threatened to close all of the blinds so that he could just worry about himself for a few hours. Seriously, I didn't know whether to rail at him or to burst out laughing when he told me I shouldn't have brought the bag of hard candy to his chair - just a candy dish. I think/hope I went the laughing route.

Night #2 was even less restful than #1. I shall not dwell on that.

Day #2 was fretful. Got up early as I was scheduled to work the kennel, taking Dave's normal shifts. At one point during the night he got over chilled, so we bundled him up under blankets. Getting up he was absolutely burning up - temperature 102! I pulled the blankets off, made him drink some, and promised to be back. Fortunately our dog numbers were low enough that our staff helper could deal with the dogs herself once the breakfasts and check ins/outs were done, and I came back in. Temperature down to 101. Called the doctor - waited hours for a call back. The assistant got the info and said she had to check with the surgeon... Who - had just left. So it would be hours more. Meanwhile, given his meds she didn't think he could/should take anything for the fever.

I didn't have any staff for the afternoon shift, so I was in the kennel mid afternoon when I finally got a call back. The surgeon wasn't overly concerned about his temperature given he didn't have any other signs of body aches or inflamed skin around his bandage. But - Motrin was ok if we wanted to administer that. And, given that this was 4:00 on Friday, if the temperature went up -- go to the ER. Great. That's real comforting.

Gave him Motrin; the fever broke overnight. Night #3, actually, was a real improvement over the first two. But Day #3, Saturday, he was plagued with a lot of pain. He pretty much hunkered down for the day in bed. I watched some DVDs by myself and did some house cleaning. Not nearly enough, mind you. But some.

The surgeon had stressed that the best rehabilitation for him was walking. Starting even Thursday we'd done some walking on the property. It's almost 1/4 mile down to the mailbox - we figured it's now his duty to go collect it. It's a bit of a push coming back up to the house, but rather conveniently we have benches set up above the riding arena which are 3/4 of the way.

Sunday, Day #4, finally, really did felt better. The nights continue to improve, and he's pretty much fully ambulatory himself now: I'm not helping him get into or out of bed, etc. That evening we took off and went to a nearby nature area for our walk. Took the dog. It was beautiful. It was really nice to explore new place we'd never been to though it's just down the street and we drive by it all the time. My sister happened to call while we were out and I was reporting that yes, Dave was feeling better. "I'm still in pain," he grumbled over my shoulder. Yeah, ok sweetie. I didn't press him to admit that it would have taken a semi-truck to get him out of bed the day before, not to mention into the car and down to the nature trail -- NOR that he only took his pain meds 3 times on Sunday instead of the prescribed 4. So THERE - grumpy.

Love you. ;-D

So, I'm back at work today and he's at home to fend for himself. He has a followup visit with the surgeon on Thursday, and a tentative Physical Therapy appointment on Friday. We're hoping that by next week he'll be feeling well enough to do the clerical tasks in the kennel. Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, it's JUNE! Boy did that sneak up on us. June is very busy on the ranch - it's our highest kennel month (traditionally) and summer camps start. To have Dave completely laid up this week is ultra inconvenient -- which makes me chaff all the more that his surgery was delayed for 5 weeks for nothing but a bureaucratic mess up back in April. GRRRR. But I shall not dwell on that.